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A New Way to Cut Shipments to Landfills

Kaya Laterman in Green Ideas on January 24, 2019

New York City

Donate NYC

These items are headed to new homes instead of a landfill, thanks to donateNYC (image courtesy of Department of Sanitation).

Jan. 24, 2019

Are residents in your building feverishly culling their belongings, inspired by the Netflix hit show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”? If the garbage room has piles of unwanted furniture and clothing that still look like they’re in pretty good shape, co-op and condominium residents and their property managers can use donateNYC to find a new home for items that have not outlived their usefulness. The program is part of the city’s campaign to end all landfill shipments by the year 2030.

To this end, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has organized a donation network of more than 70 nonprofits that are willing to take in unwanted furniture, appliances, art supplies, books, musical instruments, textiles, toys, and a host of other items. The expanding network now includes not only conventional reuse venues such as thrift stores and Goodwill Industries, but also housing providers, food rescue organizations, even animal shelters. And it’s making a big difference. Through the use of the website and app, the program’s partners helped divert more than 98 million pounds of items from landfills in 2017. The donated items reached more than 1.5 million New Yorkers.

The website (nyc.gov/donate) can be used in two ways. Say a resident is looking to donate a large dining room set. The donateNYC website or app allows individual users to search for a nonprofit organization that will not just be thrilled to pass that dining room set to a new user, but will also pick it up and deliver it to its new home. 

“It’s not surprising that most people who use the program are requesting pick-up,” says Eszter Csicsai, senior manager of reuse and donations at DSNY. 

Since the website works as a link from donor to nonprofit, DSNY is not directly involved with the transaction between the two. Co-op and condo property management companies can get involved by signing up for an account to gain access to what is known as the Exchange, a list of goods that people are searching for or want to donate. The list currently includes office furniture, computers, even a commercial-grade rooftop air conditioning and heating unit. 

“Co-ops and condos that want to renovate their lobby in an environmentally friendly way can ask their property management firms to establish an account,” says Csicsai. They can then save money by looking on the Exchange for free furniture and fixtures – or for someone who might want their old fixtures.  

Kamilah Cook, an assistant property manager at Metro Management Development, the company that manages the River Terrace Apartments, a Mitchell-Lama co-op in Upper Manhattan, says she used the Exchange to list about 300 unwanted hallway light fixtures early last year. “The co-op decided to upgrade the hallways so we had these 1960’s light fixtures that were still pretty nice, with some dimension to them,” Cook says. “Instead of someone just carting them away, I listed them on the Exchange and about 50 or 75 were taken to be reused.” 

One website upgrade DSNY might consider, according to Cook, is to list the names of organizations or businesses that are using the Exchange to communicate to one another so necessary verification can be completed. “I couldn’t quite tell who was making the pick-up for the light fixtures through the website system,” she says. “But otherwise it was very easy to use.”

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